Instead, I find a lot of dorky tailored and embroidered denim, relentlessly cheerful prints and patterns in ugly barn red (like this ghastly acryllic sweater from Clearwater Creek), and shiny, flimsy stretchy knits (Chico’s Travelers line). Most of it matches and coordinates, making it the kiss of death now that everyone under 40 is wearing “nothing matches” outfits.
My solution is to buy plain, natural fiber stuff from Eddie Bauer and Gap (they offer petite sizes and a variety of pant lengths) and mix it in with designer and vintage pieces I pick up at consignment shops and Seattle-area artisan seamstresses. I also look at Sundance catalog for ideas, though their clothes are not designed for short women.
I used to buy a lot from J. Jill. They’re known for incorporating up-to-the minute details (gathers, trims, buttons, raw seams, etc.) into classic styles, and they keep the pieces professional (no plunging V-necks, sheer fabrics, etc.). J. Jill is also known for using 50+ models with gray hair — a few years back, their iconic lead model was Cindy Joseph, profiled here in the new Experience Life magazine. Unfortunately for me, for the past few seasons J. Jill has been making much of their clothing in cream, beige, and pastels — a palette that just doesn’t work for my hair color and skin tone.
If you think the stores are slim pickings in terms of trendy “grown up” fashion, the websites for fashion for women over 40 or 50 are ghastly. Google the terms “fashion” and “older women” and you’ll find appallingly designed websites with pink backgrounds filled with patronizing “articles” that counsel you to dress in classic, dark colors, and cover up everything that might offend younger people (that would be your arms, legs, neck, feet, torso and “lank, thinning” hair). Think “burka.”
So I was thrilled to find Ari Seth Cohen’s blog Advanced Style. It’s filled with photos of women and men from their 50s into their 90s wearing high fashion. Some of the women are sporting very colorful, eclectic vintage clothes; others are wearing more of the European natural-fiber look that I admire. You’ll see colorful knits, fabulous boots, sharp vests, and all sort of inspiring fashion items.